We’ve been brainwashed!

November 7, 2009

“In the late 1950s, psychologist Robert Jay Lifton studied former prisoners of war interred at Korean and Chinese camps. He determined that they’d undergone a multistep process that began with attacks on the prisoner’s sense of self and ended with what appeared to be a change in beliefs. Lifton ultimately defined a set of steps involved in the brainwashing cases he studied:

  1. Assault on identity
  2. Guilt
  3. Self-betrayal
  4. Breaking point
  5. Leniency
  6. Compulsion to confess
  7. Channeling of guilt
  8. Releasing of guilt
  9. Progress and harmony”

That’s the beginning of this post and while originally intended only to make a larger point,  it quickly turned into trigger material as it became obvious just how perfectly the life experience of the average female aligns with standard brainwashing techniques — techniques which are normally only used in a war zone against an enemy.

Considering that most of this post is simply reproduced from here, with equivalent substitutions, it shouldn’t have taken long to create.  But it is with an ever increasing sense of horror that each replacement phrase was selected.  Some of my revulsion is surely the accumulation of hearing about so many boys and men committing various terrible crimes lately — and notice how I left women completely out of that sentence! — but part is simple frustration.  This world is sick, and no one wants to admit the extent of it’s malaise.  


­The article resumes:

“Each of thes­e stages takes place in an environment of isolation no escape possible, meaning all “normal” healthy social reference points are unavailable, and mind-clouding techniques like sleep deprivation and malnutrition  economic coercion,  religious justifications, and constant threats to restrictions of bodily autonomy are typically part of the process. There is often the presence or constant threat of physical harm rape, which adds to the target’s difficulty in thinking critically and independently.

We can roughly divide the process Lifton identified into three stages: breaking down the self, introducing the possibility of salvation, and rebuilding the self.

Breaking down the self

  • Assault on identity: You are not who you think you are. 
    This is a systematic attack on a target’s sense of self (also called her identity or ego) and her core belief system. The agent denies everything that makes the target who she is: “You are not a soldier.” “You are not a man.” “You are not defending freedom.”  You are not human.  You are first and foremost a genderized “woman”.  You are virgin, whore, baby-factory, servant.  The target is under constant attack for days, weeks or months, from the day she is born to the day she dies, to the point that she becomes exhausted, confused and disoriented. In this state, her own beliefs seem less solid never had a chance to form.
  • Guilt: You are bad.
    While the identity crisis is setting in becoming more entrenched, the agent is simultaneously creating an overwhelming sense of guilt in the target. He repeatedly and mercilessly attacks the subject for any “sin” the target has committed, large or small.  He may criticize the target for everything from the “evilness” of his beliefs inferiority of her nature to the way she eats too slowly much. The target begins to feel a general sense of shame, that everything she does is wrong.  Subtle criticism comes from every direction:  family, friends, news reports, film, television, radio, books, magazines, advertising;  it is relentless.
  • Self-betrayal: Agree with me that you are bad otherwise I won’t love you.
    Once the subject is disoriented and drowning in guilt, the agent forces her (either with the threat of physical harm or of continuance of the mental attack) to denounce her family, friends and peers who share the same “wrong” women’s liberation belief system that she holds. This betrayal of her own beliefs and of people other women she feels a sense of loyalty to increases the shame and loss of identity the target is already experiencing and is compounded when other women are also shaming her in the same way she is shaming them.
  • Breaking point: Who am I, where am I and what am I supposed to do?
    With her identity in crisis destroyed, experiencing deep shame and having betrayed what she has always believed in only heard about from feminists, the target may undergo what in the lay community is referred to as a “nervous breakdown.” In psychology, “nervous breakdown” is really just a collection of severe symptoms that can indicate any number of psychological disturbances. It may involve uncontrollable sobbing denial, deep depression and general disorientation. The target may have lost her grip on reality healthy perspective and have the feeling of being completely lost and alone.When the target reaches her breaking point, her sense of self is pretty much up for grabs by the first sexist pig who comes along — she has no clear understanding of who she is or what is happening to her. At this point, the agent sets up the temptation to convert to another belief system that will save the target from her misery.  Servitude will make you feel better, hon!  
  • The Possibility of Salvation
    • ­­Leniency: I can help you.
      With ­the target in a state of crisis, the agent offers some small kindness or reprieve from the abuse. He may offer the target a drink of water shoulder to cry on, or take a moment to ask the target what she misses about home how he can protect her from other men. In a state of breakdown resulting from an endless psychological attack, the small kindness seems huge, and the target may experience a sense of relief and gratitude completely out of proportion to the offering, as if the agent has saved her life. 
    • Compulsion to confession: You can help yourself by sacrificing your authentic self for the benefit of others!
      For the first time in the brainwashing process, the target is faced with the contrast between the guilt and pain of identity assault and the sudden relief of leniency. The target may feel a desire to reciprocate exceed the kindness offered to her, and at this point, the agent may offer the possibility of confession serving his needs as a means for her to relieve guilt and pain show gratitude
    • Channeling of guilt: This is why you’re in pain.
      After weeks or months years of insults, confusion, breakdown and moments of leniency, the target’s guilt has lost all meaning — she’s not sure what she has done wrong, she just knows she is wrong. This creates something of a blank slate that lets the agent fill in the blanks: He can attach that guilt, that sense of “wrongness,” to whatever he wants. Constantly mention lots of studies which blame feminism for women’s unhappiness!  The agent attaches the target’s guilt to the belief system the agent is trying to replace.   Blame feminism!  The target comes to believe it is her belief system which is the cause of her shame.  Blame feminism!  The contrast between old and new has been established: The old belief system is associated with psychological (and usually physical) agony; and the new belief system is associated with the possibility of escaping that agony.  If women would just accept their second-class status, they’d be much happier! 
    • Releasing of guilt: It’s not me; it’s my beliefs.
      The embattled target is relieved to learn there is an external cause of her wrongness, that it is not she herself that is inescapably bad — this means she can escape her wrongness by escaping the wrong belief system. All she has to do is denounce the people other women and institutions feminist organizations associated with that belief system, and she won’t be in pain anymore. The target has the power to release herself from wrongness by confessing to acts associated with her old belief system.  Write articles describing  how unhappy she used to be.  With her full confessions, the target has completed her psychological rejection of her former identity. It is now up to the agent to offer the target a new one.
    • Rebuilding the Self
      • ­Progress and harmony: If you want, you can choose good.
        The agent introduces a new belief system as the path to “good.” At this stage, the agent stops the abuse, offering the target physical comfort and mental calm in conjunction with the new belief system. Pornification is your liberation, sweetie!  The target is made to feel that it is she who must choose between old and new, giving the target the sense that her fate is in her own hands. The target has already denounced her old belief system in response to leniency and to­rment, and making a “conscious choice” in favor of the contrasting belief system helps to further relieve her guilt: If she truly believes, then she really didn’t betray anyone herself or other women. The choice is not a difficult one: The new identity is safe and desirable because it is nothing like the one that led to her breakdown.  Praise the target profusely for her compliance and compliment her for her “choice”.
      • Final confession and rebirth: I choose good. 
        Contrasting the agony of the old with the peacefulness of the new, the target chooses the new identity, clinging to it like a life preserver. She rejects her old belief system and pledges allegiance to the new one that is going to make her life better. Write books on “surrendered wives” and why prostitution is good for women!  At this final stage, there are often rituals or ceremonies to induct the converted target into her new community like pole dancing, bukkake and burkas. This stage has been described by some brainwashing victims as a feeling of “rebirth”  empowerment.

    Many psychologists believe that large-scale brainwashing — via the mass media and subliminal messages, for instance — is not possible, because the thought-reform process requires isolation and absolute dependence of the subject in order to be effective. It’s just not that easy to change a person’s core personality and belief system.” 

    Thus concludes the quoted article, with two dissenting caveats:  It is extremely easy to brainwash a child from birth, especially if that child resides within a cult-like culture from which there is no escape.   And there is no society on this earth which does not have it’s primary belief system chosen and reinforced by men.  Everywhere humans live, work, and play, it is the cult of the male view which dominates.

    I’ll stop there, because I can’t decide which terrible consequence to talk about next.

    20 Responses to “We’ve been brainwashed!”

    1. m Andrea Says:

      Sorry about the part where the text becomes small, there must be something embedded in the original text because no matter I tried, it just wound up wonky.

      Internet Explorer has a plus sign in the lower right-hand corner of each window, and if you click that then then you can make the page bigger.

    2. thebewilderness Says:

      I just wanted to take a moment to tell you how much I adorable you. How you can respond to that much dishonesty with reasoned kindness is beyond me. I admire you greatly!

    3. polly Says:

      You need to edit your post in HTML view M Andrea. When you go to HTML there are tags which will say span font size extra small, and you just delete them (there are pointy brackets as well which I haven’t bothered typing cos wordpress will disappear them).

    4. Embee Says:

      First time visiting and you’ve blown me away with this one.

      It gives me chills to see how my life (and marriage) followed exactly this formula. I’ve struggled to explain this process to people who asked why the “perfect couple” divorced but I had not realized that it was a technique. And to think I spent my twenties with my head hung in guilt…

      Am delighted to be expecting a daughter in the Spring (not with brainwasher). I will tape this post to my bathroom mirror to remind me what she is facing and to never stop fighting for her identity and independence.

      Thank you.

    5. Emzy Says:

      This…I’m printing this out so it never gets lost.
      Fantastic work 🙂

    6. thebewilderness Says:

      Now that it is too late to take it back or ask permission, I am here to beg forgiveness for quoting your alternate ad in the super bowl ad thread at Corrente.
      Sorry. I shoulda asked first.

    7. m Andrea Says:

      Been meaning to put one of those “steal whatever you want, quote whatever you want” buttons in the sidebar. But it’s nice to know someone found anything useful in what I’ve said, particularly someone of your brilliance.

      Hope you saw the comment I later added to that, at Echidne’s. The original superbowl ad was merely reading off a laundry list of things normal human beings would do for each other, and these were clearly too difficult for the average dood. But my first response to that was to have woman read off a list of behaviors which are above and beyond expectations for normal women. I should have had her say, “I promise to bathe, I promise to return my library books”. Etc.

      New posts are coming, btw.

    8. FemmeForever Says:

      I’m soooo glad you’re back! I was just about to ask about you on another blog. I thought maybe you’d thrown in the towel. I love this blog. Almost no one is willing to tell the unvarnished, unapologetic, un-placating gospel truth. I know it’s a big responsibility but your voice IS NEEDED.

    9. m Andrea Says:

      Thank you. It was Jennifer over at http://unsanesafe.blogspot.com/ who helped me to realize a few things, one of which is why I feel so extremely uncomfortable replying to anyone who compliments one of my blog posts. I’m trying to get over a really wierd hang-up and grow as a person. *ironic squeal* lol

    10. Jennifer Says:

      Glad to be of assistance. I’ve posted this entry of yours on Break Free Self Defence’s facebook profile.

    11. […] is this unconscious reaction which prevents her from using her brain.  I’m talking about the subconscious tendancy, achieved through eons of male supremacy brainwashing, for women to automatically identify […]

    12. Sonia Says:

      I know this is an older post but have to comment. While the post itself is theoretically framing and naming a process that women go through, I was able to pinpoint for each step of the process where/when/by whom those events occured in my own life. having just left therapy after two years pissed off that I felt revictimized by the bullshit dynamic there, this list gave me a much more practical way to look at the shit I’ve been through. It also helps depersonalize the hard things in life. While misogyny and its attendant abuses may be an assault on me as a woman, it’s not an assault on me because of my individual nature, rather my nature as-a-woman. which is just as bad, but for women it can be very difficult to distinguish between those two things while abuse is happening, which is what makes the abuse even more damaging. we internalize the abuse because we don’t understand it, and that’s what makes the assualt successful. it wasn’t until I started looking at my past in a feminist context that I understood the process of damage that had occurred. clear headed understanding like what’s in this post from other women really helps me move forward in my life. thanks.

    13. m Andrea Says:

      Most of what you said makes a lot of sense and of course I’m glad the post was helpful, but to me it doesn’t matter if the motivation for sexism is impersonal. Seems like that’s just an excuse not to get angry at the perpetrator and avoid focusing on the harm to the victim. It reminds me of the bullshit about “forgiving the asshole in order to heal”.

      If you have ever heard a sadist LAUGH while taking enjoyment in inflicting pain, his impersonal intent would not be comforting…


    14. Brenda Says:

      Thank you for this post. It’s heavy material for me because it’s true. Having been raised in what could easily be called a cult, it’s true for me with and without the substitutions. I’d say more but I am sort of overwhelmed. I’m still working to figure out who I am.

    15. m Andrea Says:

      Hi Brenda, I never know what to say when people find something which resonates in my posts, but thank you.

      Most of the time (if not all the time), when people are raised in a cult they are isolated and protected from the outside world, and perhaps even told lies about this outside world — yet they are aware that an outside world does exists and they realize that this outside world does not believe the same things they do. But the cult of patriarchy occupies the entire world so those who are born into it do not have the luxury of knowing that any other way of living or belief systems is possible. In this way the cult and it’s belief system becomes absolutely invisable to it’s members on every conceivable level of conscious awareness. To see that which is invisible requires… who the hell knows, but something!

      It took me a week to make the substitutions, just because each sentence horrified me so much, but I already knew we’re all living in a cult — so anyone reading this for the first time has my total sympathy! Much congratulations on your journey!!

      To realize “most every thing anybody ever taught me about myself was a lie” is an extremely uncomfortable place to be and the tendancy for most is to cling to the old ways of thinking and being out of fear of the unknown. But really Brenda, for me it was only uncomfortable until I passed through that door completely. On the other side, everything is just fine once again, because I have a new truth which is just as comforting if not more so than the old “truth” — because I know this one is genuine.

      Please be kind to yourself Brenda.

    16. rjjspesh Says:

      Wow, that’s intense.

    17. Imaginary Says:

      This is really great. Men have destroyed my mind and the minds of all the womin I love. They’ve driven me insane with their lies and I can’t ever forgive them.

      Thank you for writing this. I hope that one day, men will know the pain they have caused be it on earth, or in some unknown hell.

    18. thebewilderness Says:

      Happy Hollandaise to my favorite Feminazi!

    19. Tiffany Twisted Says:

      This is a great post. It describes perfectly the process that I always referred to as “the constant chipping away at me” that occured in my marriage. Its invisible but you can feel it happening. Chip chip chip until theres not much left of you. Sometimes huge chunks fall off at once. And no one sees it. Thats the part that irritates the hell out of me. Its always some flaw in you as a woman.Its crazy making. I often feel like I’m crazy. Anyway, I really appreciate reading things like this from women more well educated than I because it gives me reassurance that I am not crazy and also helps me articulate what the hell is really going on.

    20. m Andrea Says:

      Thank you very much, glad it helped. I also feel better when I know other women are experiencing similar thoughts. Not that I wish them bad, but if I was the only one then I’d probably be blaming myself like crazy and that’s not healthy. It’s easier for me to look at other women who are experiencing similar and realize hey it’s not their fault. And then it’s obvious that it’s not mine, either.

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